The Surf Coast Shire council is committed to controlling pest plant and animal species on the Surf Coast. The Shire under its obligations to manage council-owned and managed land has just finalised the Pest Plant and Animal Strategy 2020-2023 which has been accepted by council.
The strategy is underpinned by five goals and a number of guiding principles. These goals and principles include the prevention of new species from invading the Surf Coast, and the minimisation of the impact of those species already established. Council is committed to working with land-care groups and community groups such as Angair to manage these pests. Responsibility for management is shared between landholders, community groups, industry and government.
For the purposes of the strategy a pest plant (weed) is a species that has a negative effect on the economy, the environment, human health and amenity. A pest animal is or has the potential to become a serious threat to primary production, crown land, the environment or community health in Victoria. Pest plants and animals may be introduced or native if they spread outside their natural habitat or cause destruction.
Pest plants (weeds)
The strategy clearly states that management of pests extends across the three levels of government, as well as government agencies such as the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority and the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC), and community groups like Angair and AIDA. Equally important are individual landholders, who are legally responsible for the management of pest plant and animals on their landholdings. Many weeds that have invaded our bush were once planted well-meaningly as garden species. The characteristics of these species, often hardy and drought tolerant, are exactly the characteristics that make them such damaging environmental weeds. Colourful flowers add to their appeal as both garden species and for birds to spread their seeds. Agapanthus, Bluebell Creeper, Polygala, Sweet Pittosporum, Gazania (African daisy) Freesia and Arum and Belladonna lilies can now be seen along roadsides and in the bush; the bright flowers act as signals to us that they are invaders. Some residents may not be aware that they have these weeds in their gardens, especially weeds that are native, but not indigenous to the area. For a comprehensive list see: Angair website weed of the month archive or go to the council’s list of the top twenty weeds on the Surf Coast website. www.surfcoast.vic.gov.au and put in ‘Local plants and weeds.
Weeds on one site in Distillery Creek Road, L–R top, Pittosporum and Bluebell Creeper in flower; middle, Belladonna Lilies and Spear Thistles; bottom, Boneseed.
The most ubiquitous pest animal seen around the Aireys Inlet area is the rabbit. Other species include the red fox and more recently feral cats. Rabbits are controlled according to the rabbit management plan, which includes baiting and eradication of warrens with the support of local landholders, land-care groups and land management agencies.
Almost every year AIDA is asked about the control of the rabbit population on the coast. It would appear that most of the council’s rabbit control takes place inland. There are two reasons for this, first the problem inland is worse than ours, and second, it is logistically more difficult to have a rabbit control program in an urban environment due to the risk of harming domestic animals.
Foxes are more difficult to control due to their cunning and the risk of harming domestic animals. The council fumigates active dens and works with GORCC to protect the hooded plover chicks that are found in the sand dunes around Fairhaven and Moggs Creek.
Feral cats are a huge problem, especially to our bird population. Domestic cats also, can be skilled hunters, so should be kept inside. There is now
a domestic cat curfew across the Shire where all domestic cats must be kept indoors between 8:00 pm and 6:00 am.
Not all pest animals are introduced. The sulphur- crested cockatoo, galahs and corellas although native, may be considered pest species due to the damage they do to buildings in particular window frames and deck railing. Fortunately wildlife is protected under the Victorian Wildlife Act 1975 and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. These laws make it an offence to kill, take control or harm wildlife without a permit.
In conclusion, control of weeds and to a certain extent pest animals is the responsibility of everyone, from the three tiers of government to the individual. One of the most effective control measures for a landholder is to eradicate the weeds on their block , no matter how attractive these plants look they are doing damage to our environment; like housework, weeding just has to be done. A solution is to plant indigenous instead of introduced species. If you own a cat it must be kept indoors at night.